By Charles Mubanga
The current mealie meal shortages coupled with high prices presents an opportunity for the government to review its maize production and marketing policy.
For instance there is no incentive in restricting producers from benefiting from export markets yet characters who have never held a hoe find it easy to export and benefit from external markets simply because they know the fellow who issues export permits.
The entire maize value chain should be reviewed.
The cost of inputs is terribly high, family farmers, who are the major producers of maize do not get the benefit of producing this crop.
This is confirmed by the ever rising poverty levels among the maize producing rural communities.
The maize subsidy (both inputs and price support mechanisms) doesn’t seem to be working at all.
Yields are terribly low an indication of poor or non-existent extension services. Under the current cost structure of inputs it’s extremely difficult for one to make a profit from “maize”, especially with the ever depreciating Kwacha.
A revived cooperative movement can help family farmers participate in procurement of inputs at affordable costs, value addition e.g. milling and export markets. In its current form, maize production is not economically attractive.
Targeted support to this sector is important in order to attract more farmers especially the youth. It’s also important to identify and support sustainable graduation strategies from this subsidy by benefiting farmers e.g. incorporate plantation crops in the FISP set up.
The writer is Continental Secretary, Intercontinental Network of Organic Farmers’ Organizations, (INOFO) and also Rainbow Party Second Deputy General Secretary.